Abhidhamma in Daily life
DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF CITTA
Buddha spoke about everything which is real. What he taught can be proved
by our own experience. However, we do not really know the most common
realities of daily life: the mental phenomena and physical phenomena which
appear through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind. It seems that
we are mostly interested in the past or the future. However, we will find
out what life really is if we know more about the realities of the present
moment, and if we are aware of them when they appear.
The Buddha explained that citta (consciousness)
is a reality. We may doubt whether cittas are real. How can we prove that
there are cittas? Could it be that there are only physical phenomena and
not mental phenomena? There are many things in our life we take for granted
such as our homes, meals. clothes, or the tools we use every day. These
things do not arise by themselves. They are brought about by a thinking
mind, by citta. Citta is a mental phenomenon; it
knows or experiences something.
Citta is not like a physical phenomenon which does not experience anything.
We listen to music which was written by a composer. It was citta which
had the idea for the music; it was citta which made the composer's hand
move in order to write down the notes. His hand could not have moved without
Citta can achieve many different
effects. We read in the 'Atthasalini’ (a commentary to the Dhammasangani,
which is the first book of the Abhidhamma) Book I, Part II, Analysis
of Terms, 64:
How is consciousness (i.e.mind
) capable of
producing a variety or diversity
of effects in action?
There is no art in the world more
variegated than the
art of painting. In painting, the
is more artistic than the rest of
his pictures. An artistic
design occurs to the painters of
masterpieces that such
and such pictures should be drawn
in such and such
a way. Through this artistic design
there arise operations
of the mind (or artistic operations)
things as sketching the outline,
putting on the paint,
touching up, and embellishing...
Thus all classes of
arts in the world, specific or generic,
are achieved by
the mind. And owing to its capacity
thus to produce
a variety or diversity of effects
in action, the mind,
which achieves all these arts, is
itself artistic like the
arts themselves. Nay, it is even
more artistic than the
art itself, because the latter cannot
execute every design
perfectly. For that reason the Blessed
One has said,
'Monks, have you seen a masterpiece
of painting?' 'Yes,
Lord.' 'Monks, that masterpiece
of art is designed by
the mind. Indeed, monks, the mind
is even more artistic
than that masterpiece.'
We then read about the many different
things which are accomplished by citta: good deeds such as deeds of generosity
and bad deeds such as deeds of cruelty and deceit are accomplished by citta
and these deeds produce different results. There is not just one type of
citta, but many different types of cittas.
Different people react differently
to what they experience, thus, different types of citta arise. What one
person likes, another dislikes. We can also notice how different people
are when they make or produce something. Even when two
people plan to make the same thing
the result is quite different. For example, when two people make a painting
of the same tree, the paintings are not at all the same. People have different
talents and capacities; some people have no difficulty with their studies,
whereas others are incapable of study. Cittas are beyond control; they
have each their own conditions for their arising.
Why are people so different from
one another? The reason is that they have different experiences in life
and thus they accumulate different inclinations. When a child has been
taught from his youth to be generous he accumulates generosity. People
who are angry very often accumulate a great deal of anger. We all have
accumulated different inclinations, tastes and skills.
Each citta which arises falls away
completely and is succeeded by the next citta. How then can there be accumulations
of experiences in life, accumulations of good and bad inclinations? The
reason is that each citta which falls away is succeeded by the next citta.
Our life is an uninterrupted series of cittas and each citta conditions
the next citta and this again the next, and thus the past can condition
the present. It is a fact that our good cittas and bad cittas in the past
condition our inclinations today.
Thus, good and bad inclinations are accumulated.
We all have accumulated many impure
inclinations and defilements (in Pali:kilesa). Kilesa is for instance greed
(lobha), anger (dosa) and ignorance (moha). There are different degrees
of defilements: there are subtle defilements or latent tendencies, medium
defilements and gross defilements. Subtle defilements do not appear with
the citta, but they are latent tendencies which are accumulated in the
citta. At the time we are asleep and not dreaming there are no akusala
cittas but there are unwholesome latent tendencies. When we wake up akusala
cittas arise again. How could they appear if there were not in each citta
accumulated unwholesome latent tendencies? Even when the citta is not akusala
there are unwholesome latent tendencies so long as they have not been eradicated
by wisdom. Medium defilement is different from subtle defilement since
it arises with the citta. Medium defilement arises with cittas rooted in
lobha, dosa and moha. Medium defilement is, for example, attachment to
what one sees, or ears or experiences through the body-sense, or aversion
towards the objects one experiences. Medium defilement does not condition
ill deeds. Gross defilement conditons unwholesome actions (akusala kamma)
through body, speech and mind, such as killing, slandering or the desire
to take away other people's possessions. Kamma (intention) is a mental
phenomenon and thus it can be accumulated. People accumulate different
defilements and different kammas.
Different accumulations of kamma
are the condition for different results in life. This is the law of kamma
and vipaka, of cause and result. We see that people are born into different
circumstances. Some people live in agreeable surroundings
and they have many pleasant experiences
in their lives. Other people may often have disagreeable experiences; they
are poor or they suffer from ill health. When we hear about children who
suffer from malnutrition, we wonder why they have to suffer while other
children receive everything they need. The Buddha taught that everyone
receives the result of his own deeds. A deed or kamma of the past can bring
its result later on, because akusala kamma and kusala kamma are
accumulated. When there are the
right conditions the result can be brought about in the form of vipaka.
When the word 'result' is used, people may think of the consequences of
their deeds for other people, but 'result' in the sense of vipaka has a
different meaning. Vipakacitta is a citta which experiences something unpleasant
or something pleasant and this citta is the result of a deed we did ourselves.
We are used to thinking of a self which experiences unpleasant
and pleasant things. However, there
is no self; there are only cittas which experience different objects. Some
cittas are cause; they can motivate good deeds or bad deeds which are capable
of bringing about their appropriate results. Some cittas are result or
vipaka. When we see something unpleasant, it is not self which sees; it
is a citta, seeing-consciousness, which is the result of an unwholesome
deed (akusala kamma) we performed either in this life or in a past life.
This kind of citta is akusala vipaka. When we see something pleasant, it
is a citta which is kusala vipaka the result of a wholesome deed we performed.
Every time we experience an unpleasant. object through one of the five
senses, there is akusala vipaka Every time we experience a pleasant object
through one of the five senses there is kusala vipaka.
lf one is being hit by someone else,
the pain one feel is not the vipaka (result) of the deed performed by the
other person. The person who is being hit receives the result of a bad
deed he performed himself; for him there is akusala vipaka through the
body-sense. The other person's action is only the proximate cause of his
pain. As regards the other person who performs the bad deed, it is his
akusala citta which motivates that deed. Sooner or later he will receive
the result of his own bad deed. When we have more understanding of kamma
and vipaka we will see many events of our life more clearly.
The 'Atthasalini' (Book I, Analysis
of Terms, Part II, 65) explains that kamma of different people causes different
results at birth and all through life. Even bodily features are the rest
of kamma. We read:
...ln dependence on the
difference in kamma appears
the difference in the destiny of
beings without legs
with two legs, four legs, many legs,
with perception, without perception,
perception nor without perception.
Depending on the
difference in kamma appears the
difference in the births
of beings, high and low, base and
exalted, happy and
miserable. Depending on the difference
appears the difference in the individual
features of beings
as beautiful or ugly, high-born
or low-born, well-built
or deformed. Depending on the difference
appears the difference in the worldly
conditions of beings
as gain and loss, fame and disgrace,
blame and praise,
happiness and misery.
Further on we read:
By kamma the world moves,
by kamma men
Live, and by kamma are all beings
As by its pin the rolling chariot
The Buddha taught that everything
arises because of conditions; it is not by chance that people are so different
in bodily features and characters, and that they live in such different
circumstances. Even the difference in bodily features
of animals is due to different kamma.
Animals have cittas too; they may behave badly or they may behave well.
Thus they accumulate different kammas which produce different results.
lf we understand that each kamma brings about its own result, we will know
that there is no reason to be proud if we are born into a rich family or
if we receive praise, honour or other pleasant things. When we have to
suffer we will understand that suffering is due to our own deeds. Thus
we will be less inclined to blame other people for our unhappiness or to
be jealous when others receive pleasant things. When we understand reality
we know that it is not self who receiver something pleasant or who has
to suffer; it is only vipaka a citta which arises because of conditions
and which falls away immediately.
We see that people who are born into
the same circumstances still behave differently. For example, among people
who are born into rich families, some are stingy, others are not. The fact
that one is born into a rich family is the result of kamma. Stinginess
is conditioned by one's accumulated defilements. There are many different
types of conditions which play their parts in the life of each person.
Kamma causes one to be born into certain circumstances and one's
accumulated tendencies condition
One may have doubts about past lives
and future lives, since one only experiences the present life. However,
in the present life we notice that different people experience different
results. These results must have their causes in the past. The past conditions
the present and the deeds we perform now will bring about their results
in the future. In understanding the present we will be able to know more
about the past and the future.
Past, present and future lives are
an unbroken series of cittas. Each citta which arises falls away immediately
to be succeeded by the next citta. Cittas do not last, but there isn't
any moment without citta. If there were moments without citta the body
would be a dead body. Even when we are sound asleep there is citta. Each
citta which arises falls away but it conditions the next citta and even
so the last citta of this life conditions the first citta of the next life,
rebirth- consciousness. Thus we
see that life goes on and on. We are moving in a cycle, the cycle of birth
The next citta cannot arise until
the previous citta has passed away. There can be only one citta at a time,
but cittas arise and fall away so rapidly that one has the impression that
there can be more than one citta at a time. We may think that we can see
and hear at the same time, but in reality each of these cittas arises at
a different moment. We can verify through our own experience that seeing
is a type of citta which is different from hearing; these cittas arise
because of different conditions and experience different objects.
A citta is that which experiences
something; it experiences an object. Each citta must experience an object,
there cannot be any citta without on object. Cittas experience different
objects through the six doors of eyes, ears, nose, tongue,
body-sense and mind. Seeing is a
citta experiencing that which appears through the eyes. We can use the
word 'visible object' for the object which is seen but it is not necessary
to name it 'visible object'. When visible object contacts the
eye-sense there are conditions for
seeing. Seeing is different from thinking about what we see ; the latter
is a type of citta which experiences something through the mind-door. Hearing
is a citta which is different from seeing; it has different conditions
and it experiences a different object. When sound contacts the ear-sense,
there are conditions for a citta which experiences sound. There have to
be the right conditions for the arising of each citta. We cannot smell
through the ears and taste with the eyes. A citta which smells experiences
odour through the nose. A citta which tastes experiences flavour through
the tongue. A citta which experiences a bodily impression experiences this
through the body-sense. Through the mind-door citta can experience all
kinds of objects. There can be only one citta at a time and citta can experience
only one object at a time.
We may understand in theory that
a citta which sees has a characteristic which is different from a citta
which hears, and that citta is different from a physical phenomenon which
does not experience anything. Knowing this may seem quite simple
to us, but theoretical knowledge is different from knowing the truth by
one's own experience. Theoretical knowledge is not very deep; it cannot
eradicate the concept of self. Only in being aware of phenomena as they
appear through the six doors, will we know the truth by our own experience.
This kind of understanding can eradicate the concept of self.
The objects which we experience are
the world in which we live. At the moment we see, the world is visible
object. The world of visible object does not last, it falls away immediately.
When we hear, the world is sound, but it falls away again. We are absorbed
in and infatuated by the objects we experience through eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, body-sense and mind-door, but not one of these objects lasts. What
is impermanent should not be taken for self.
In the 'Gradual Savings' (Book of
the Fours, Ch.V,par. 5, Rohitassa) we read that Rohitassa, a deva, asked
the Buddha about reaching the world's end. He said to the Buddha:
'Pray, lord, is it possible
for us, by going, to know, to
The Buddha taught people about the 'world'
and the way to reach the end of the world, that is, the end of suffering.
The way to realize this is knowing the world, that is, knowing 'this very
fathom-long body, along with its perceptions and
see, to reach world's end, where
there is no more
being born or growing old, no more
dying, no more
falling (from one existence) and
rising up (in another)?'
'Your reverence, where there is no
more being born
or growing old, no more dying, no
more falling from
one existence and rising up in another,
I declare that
that end of the world is not by
going to be known,
seen or reached.'
'It is wonderful, lord! It is marvellous,
well it is said by the Exalted One:
"Where there is
no more being born… that end of
the world is not by
going to be known, seen or reached!’’
'Formerly, lord, I was the hermit
Bhoja's son, one of psychic power,
a sky-walker… The
extent of my stride was as the distance
eastern and the western oceans.
To me, lord, possessed
of such speed and of such a stride,
there came a longing
thus: I will reach world's end by
'But, lord, not to speak of (the
time spent over)
food and drink, eating, tasting
and calls of nature, not
to speak of struggles to banish
sleep and weariness,
though my life-span was a hundred
years, though I
lived a hundred years, though I
travelled a hundred
years, yet I reached not world's
end but died ere that.
Wonderful indeed, lord! Marvellous
it is, lord, how well
it has been said by the Exalted
One: "Your reverence,
where there is no more being born…
that end of the
world is not by going to be known,
seen or reached." '
'But, your reverence, I declare not
that there is any
making an end of ill without reaching
Nay, your reverence, in this very
along with its perceptions and thoughts,
I proclaim the
world to be, likewise the origin
of the world and the
making of the world to end, likewise
the practice going
to the ending of the world.
Not to be reached by going is world's
Yet there is no release for man
Unless he reach world's end -Then
let a man
Become world-knower, wise, world-ender,
Let him be one who lives the holy
Knowing the world's end by becoming
He longs not for this world or another’.
(In Pali: brahmacariya.)
thoughts', knowing oneself.
1. People are born
in different circumstances: some are born rich, others are
born poor. What is the cause of
2. People behave differently:
some are stingy, others are generous. By what is this conditioned?
3. Each citta which arises
falls away completely. How is it possible that defilements (kilesa) can